Ackerman Says Protest Is Sign Of Deeper Split
Student protests against the war and against racial injustice are only superficial symptoms of a deeper crisis in American values. Radcliffe's Baccalaureate speaker said yesterday.
James S. Ackerman, professor of Fine Arts, told 80 Radcliffe seniors that the crisis was between those who wanted to preserve the traditional American values and those who want to change them.
He concluded by saying that the only way to fashion a livable present would be to find a set of goals different from the ethic of competition for success and status. These new "humane goals," he said, would lead to a society "less competitive and less likely to get involved in war and racial conflict."
Referring to his own college generations. Ackerman said that there had been a general consensus on what values constituted the "good life."
As long as that consensus endured, he said. "we didn't have to think very much about what was good or bad behavior. We protected property because we had it or hoped to have it; we joined the army because the policies of our elected officials were more or less our policies."
But Ackerman said that Americans have discovered that "our image of success has had little in it that bears on the quality of life. Our goal has been to make the grade . . . Rarely does a person who has arrived socially and financially stop scrambling in order to enjoy life."
The achievement ethic was born in "a young and expanding country, a country with justifiable faith in economic progress as a key to social good," Ackerman said. He added that the faith had been eroded by "doubts and fears about the future."
The differences and conflicts that grow out of these shifting values "must be brought out and dealt with," he said. Along with minorities to observe the rights of others, "we should also call on those who have the power to initiate or resist change not only to remain responsive to criticism, but also to seek it out--so that the critic knows he can be heard without shouting.
Between five and ten of the girls who attended the Baccalaureate wore red armbands over their academic gowns. Two of the students--Anne Aylward '69 and Lucy Raudenbush '69--took part in the service.
Miss Aylward lead a prayer and Miss Raudenbush read a section of Alan Paton's Cry the Beloved Country, beginning with the lines: "Have no doubt it is fear in the land. For what can men do when so many are forced to become lawless?